Just around the corner from my house is a little family-run farm where I can find fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables in the middle of suburbia. In the summertime, John and I tend our small organic vegetable garden in the backyard where we reap an abundant harvest of zucchini, kale, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers. But in the winter, our garden plot is covered in frost and awaiting the warmth of the spring sun. The farm, however, is open year-round, so yesterday I decided to drop in and see what seasonal vegetables they had recently harvested.
I was excited to find beautiful heads of fresh escarole. Its bright, broad leaves are a splash of green in the dead of winter. Escarole is a member of the endive family, but the least bitter of all the endives. Like other dark green, leafy vegetables, it is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant components. And it is also one of the main ingredients in one of my favorite soups: Escarole and Bean.
John’s grandmother Madeline was the one who first introduced me to Escarole and Bean soup. She had immigrated to the United States from the south of Italy as a young girl, and I always imagined that this particular version of the much-loved recipe had been passed down for generations.
The soup is very quick and easy to prepare and is ready after simmering for just twenty minutes on the stove. First, I heat a little bit of olive oil in a Dutch oven. Then, I add fresh garlic and sauté until golden. Next, I toss in the coarsely chopped escarole, until the leaves wilt. This takes about five minutes. Finally, I add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, and beans. I like the small, white navy beans best.
These are the standard ingredients in this classic Italian soup, but Grandma Madeline added a unique twist to hers. She’d toss in a bit of crispy bacon to the pot as the soup simmered on the stove. You can never go wrong with bacon, right? After twenty minutes, the flavors have blended with the rich tomato beautifully complemented by the tender escarole and hearty beans. The soup is ready to serve with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
With the weather station reporting a coming snowfall this weekend, I am looking forward to sitting near the fireplace and enjoying a bowl of this hearty soup. It keeps you warm and supercharges your health in the winter months in the most delicious way possible.
Enjoy, friends! 🙂 Buon Appetito!
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- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 large head escarole, about 1 pound coarsely chopped
- 6 cups gluten free chicken broth
- 1 15-ounce can Muir Glen tomato sauce
- 1 15-ounce can navy beans
- 2 strips Applegate no nitrate bacon, cooked and chopped
- salt, to taste
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Add garlic and sauté until golden, do not burn. Add escarole and toss until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add broth, sauce, beans with their juices and cooked bacon. Simmer until flavors blend and soup thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Season with salt. Ladle soup into bowls. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
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